Macros, Bikinis, and Comps- Oh, my!! 

Well helloooo, bloggosphere!! LC here. I am, in fact, alive and well, and still cooking up a storm. Where to begin to explain my extended a!g absence?? It all started with a dream and a bikini…….

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dooledy doo, dooledy doo, dooledy doo

In 2011, a woman I know trained for a bikini division bodybuilding competition and posted her update photos on Facebook. She was tan and lean, curvy yet muscular and her inspiring photos struck a chord with me. Her competition suit sparkled under the stage lights, she beamed and strutted and posed, and I was hooked. Literal heart eyed emoji come to life. 😍

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NOT the gal I know, just a photo of some pro bikini competitors to get an idea of the general aesthetic; abs, legs, guns, heels, glam

Fast forward 5 busy years and I found myself embarking on new horizons, starting a dream job at a firm I really, really wanted to be a part of. I was also a physical wreck from years of admittedly improper triathlon training and knew I had to get stronger to avoid further injury and the knee replacements my Dad has undergone. “Hey, self,” I thought to myself during the week between gigs, “remember that girl who trained to be really strong and looked super cute and still got to compete? You’re at a crossroads and in a period of reinvention; maybe you could do that, too.”

Lord knows I love an all-consuming hobby so dang if becoming a bikini competitor is not exactly what I set out to do, and DID. With a vengeance. At 33. I hired a coach, bought lifting gloves and shoes, and set out on my journey. Bootstraps pulled, chin up, first steps taken on my newfound bodybuilding journey. I trained for 6 months for my first show, placed in the top 5, and did 2 more shows for an exhausting total of 3 within 7 months. From finance to triathlon to cooking to diving to travel to life, I love sinking my teeth into a proper challenge. #noeasyhobbies.

What does this have to do with food and a!g? Well, seeing as my protein intake was incredibly low (readers may remember my occasional dabbling in veganism), much of what I consumed over those first six months was whey protein and chicken. Not super exciting to post about nor photo worthy, explaining my absence.

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That being said, the coach I worked with subscribes to the dieting theory of IIFYM (“if it fits your macros”), aka flexible dieting, which provides months worth of discussion fodder in and of itself.  IIFYM allows dieters to eat what they want within macronutrient parameters, hitting target grams of fat, carbohydrates, and protein that add to a daily calorie count. Fat has 9 calories per gram, while carbs and protein each have 4. You track your macros and calories within those numbers and are still able to eat the foods you love. No standard bro diet, so if dieting boredom does not work for you and you don’t mind tracking your food intake, IIFYM may be a great fit.

My Net Diary is the tracking app I used- straightforward and intuitive.

A few takeaways from a solid year of IIFYM. I followed IIFYM religiously as part of my training plan, which meant weighing every meal from April 2016-present (I’ve become the lady at work shamelessly balancing her bowl of berries on a crack scale) and fitting in last-minute snacks like 1 tsp peanut butter and a tablespoon of oatmeal to round out my macros. I’d never dieted or tracked my food before, as I ate pretty clean and have a good sense of what my body does like (brown rice, avocado, salmon, sweet potatoes) and does not like (dairy, too much red meat, artificial flavorings, excess sodium), so this was all new to me. Image result for iifym meme math

Disclaimer: I’m taking a moment to enjoy some hater tots and wash them down with the haterade (yes, they fit): I don’t buy that a person can blow her macros on cupcakes and pizza, hit her numbers, and be healthy and energized enough to fuel an active life. I know I can’t. It will come down to this, always- if you’re serious about lifting, gaining, leaning out, prepping, what have you- there’s going to come a time when you’ll be forced to clean up your diet. There you go, I said it. I do not subscribe to true IIFYM.

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As much creativity as IIFYM allows dieters, my body is happier with clean volume foods instead of fake-outs like sugar free cookies and the like. I’d rather have a plate of good clean whole food than force an allegedly brownie-flavored protein bar full of sugar alcohols into my diet because it *might* allow me to pretend I’m indulging. The bodybuilding diet I am happy with is essentially a hybrid: clean, bro-ish eating within macro parameters. It took me months and months to figure this out, but clean foods do a body good, especially mine. Skin, digestion, energy levels, hormones, sleep quality, so much more benefit from shopping on the perimeter of the grocery store. Stay on the outer grocery beltway, my friends.

Currently, I’m 3 days post show and reverse dieting to get my caloric intake back up out of depletion levels, so I’m doing my funky clean eating-IIFYM to hit those numbers. After I’m back up to a sustainable number of P/F/C where I can fuel muscle growth and tri training (I’ma be a busy girl this summer), I’ll see what feels right. I’ll likely drop my protein intake to 1g per pound of body weight. Anything above that seems excessive and tough on the kidneys, plus I’ll need some carbs to swim-bike-run and to acheive my fat burning goals. More posts on this strategy to come… I’m really excited to share my journey!

In the meantime, I’ll post a bit about the meals that fit my reverse macros and how I’m making them work for me. Writing again feels great- I have been so busy and missed blogging so much. Thanks for reading and let me know what experience you’ve had with bro dieting, IIFYM, eating clean, fitness comps, or competition diets!

~Lauren

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Food for Thought: The Environmental Impact of Eating Meat

We’ve all heard the myriad health benefits of reducing our meat consumption, but what about the benefits to our planet? Mother Earth News published a great article succinctly summarizing the environmental impact of our monstrous American meat consumption, and I wanted to share it. It goes without saying that raising, preparing, and eating meat is deeply ingrained in our culinary identity as Americans, but aren’t American innovation and ingenuity a greater source of pride? What would be so revolutionary about an American shift to a fiscally responsible, sustainable, self-preserving plant-based diet? Wouldn’t that shift put us ahead of the curve? Food for thought.

veggie cow

Here are the facts that jumped off the page at me from the Mother Earth article:

  • Nearly all supermarket beef, chicken and pork — the three most consumed types of animal protein in this country — are produced on enormous industrial-scale farms. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines these huge farms as “agricultural enterprises where animals are kept and raised in confined situations. [Such operations] congregate animals, feed, manure and urine, dead animals, and production operations on a small land area. Feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing in pastures, fields or on rangeland.”
  • On these factory farms, animals eat commodity crops — primarily corn and soybeans — that are subsidized by taxpayers via the Farm Bill. Half of all North American cropland — about 149 million acres — produces animal feed from genetically modified (GM) crops designed to resist weedkillers such as Roundup. These crops have spawned an epidemic of herbicide-resistant “superweeds.” In 2012, superweeds infested 61 million acres of farmland growing GM crops. The result: An increase in herbicide use rather than a reduction, as well as “stacking” of genetically modified traits in seeds to allow cocktails of potent herbicides to be used on crops.
  • Beef cattle are given anabolic steroids as well as estrogen, androgen and progestin — commonly called “growth hormones” — to make them put on weight more quickly. Although the European Union banned the use of these hormones in 1988, they’re still commonplace in the United States. “Measurable levels of…growth-promoting hormones are found at slaughter in the muscle, fat, liver, kidneys and other organ meats,” says the Organic Consumers Association in a position paper. “Every beef-eating American for over 50 years has been exposed to these hormones on a regular basis.” Pigs, too, are fed growth hormones. The use of growth hormones in poultry, however, has been illegal in the United States since the 1950s.
  • Animal feed includes low-level (sometimes called “sub-therapeutic”) doses of antibiotics to promote growth and offset unsanitary, overcrowded conditions. About 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are administered to livestock, a figure acknowledged by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2010. These drugs pass through manure and leach into the soil and groundwater, ultimately polluting neighboring rivers and streams.

My decisions as a consumer are weighing more heavily on me as I become aware of their rippling consequences (I think this is called “maturing” in some cultures. hmm). I love the occasional taste of meat and am by no means scolding…. but this is shocking stuff. If you’re considering reducing how much meat your family eats but you’re not sure how to approach the change (most of us are programmed to cook with meat), try introducing meatless Mondays or Mark Bittman’ wonderful flexitarian approach: VB6. Vegan before 6pm!

What are your thoughts on the effects of excessive meat consumption across our country?

You can read the entire article, Try a Flexitarian Diet for Better Health and a Better Food Budget, here.

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